Atypical Superheroes, and A Storm of Sustainability

My work breaks away from the traditional SCA roles. I’m not cutting tread on a beautiful backcountry trail, or providing much needed disaster relief. I do not interact with wild animals or fires. In the city setting, there are more big buildings than big trees, cars than critters, and sewers and sidewalks than trail and turnpikes.<p>But there are still similarities between a backcountry SCA Crew, and my SCA Green City Corps. For one, we’re a team, and darn good one at that. And two, though we may be few, we are having a large impact. Right now, there are 15 of us urbanites in Pittsburgh, working for different organizations to help further projects which mitigate climate change and promote sustainability. Did you know conservation (also) starts here?<p>We each have our specialists. For example, my friend Dan works for Bike Pittsburgh promoting bike use and safety. Michelle is placed with Gtech working to improve homes’ energy efficiency and Ana blitzes through neighborhoods passing out energy saving goody bags for PennFuture. Megan knows about our Pittsburgh Parks and Kim helps Sustainable Pittsburgh’s workplaces go green. Together, we create a strong network of young, and eager conservationists that blanket our city’s sustainability sector.<p>Most weeks, we are busy working independently on our projects. But every now and then, like this week, we get the chance to combine forces. And not unlike Captain Planet’s Planeteers (whose theme I find myself humming often) we are taking the city by a sustainability storm.<p>Megan: Let our powers combine.Earth! 

Michelle: Fire!

Karrie: Wind!

Mikana: Water!

Tiffany: Heart!

Everyone: Gooooooo Planet!<p>This week a team of us met for our second site visit to Gator Gardens where we’re planning an upcoming community service project.

Most of us arrived drenched, myself included. We’d gotten caught in a heavy evening rain that, from 5-7PM, dropped a wet-down-to-my-knickers amount of water. In the moment, it felt a little miserable, but this rain is only a drop in the bucket. During big storms we’ve got a bigger problem in the city. Storm water runoff, due to a high concentration of impermeable surface, causes overloaded sewer systems to push fowl liquid directly into our rivers, and can also create deadly flash floods.<p>After drying out and discussing, our team went out to take a look at the garden. This week the beds looked like a lush sea of kelly green, probably from the rain. The plants were much bigger than the last time we visited, creeping out of their beds and brushing our waists as we passed through.

This garden was started by the Garfield Community Action Team to help provide the surrounding Garfield neighborhood with a cleaner, greener, and safer community. The response has been positive with garden beds maintained by 13 nearby residents, and a waiting list that’s growing. There’s a lot of garden to water and erosion is a problem on the lot’s steep sloping terrain.<p>To meet the water needs for the garden, our team will work with the community to help install rain barrels and erosion control measures at the site in August. Right now we’re in the designing stage, hoping to optimize our project’s impact. Our system for onsite rain catchment should provide much needed water to the garden beds, and decrease reliance on a neighboring house that’s currently providing most of the garden’s moisture. Diverting and storing the water will also decrease erosion, and remove a few barrels worth of rain from the city’s storm water system, which is severely overburdened. Perhaps the biggest impact it will have is within the community itself. When a community invests time and effort into a project, often times it’s only then that it really becomes a lasting and empowering endeavor.

To round out the evening, garden volunteer Don showed us a method we’ll be using called Hugelkutur, which uses natural and local materials to decrease erosion on slopes. We’re also going to build a lean-to in one corner of the property, which will increase our surface area for water collection, and provide extra storage for garden tools.<p>We’re designing the project from the ground up, each of us playing to our individual skills, and accepting new challenges to get the job done. And this is just one way we work together.<p>The beauty of conservation is that there are so many ways to have a positive impact. In a city, the population is dense and the systems we rely on are interwoven, so that even the smallest sustainable move ripples out to effect a large number of people. Still, the job is multi-faceted and by no means easy. I’m glad I’ve got my team. “Gooooooo Planet!”<p>So we’re not classic SCA heroes. Sometimes we wear suits to work, and showers are much easier for us to come by, but just the same, we are all leaving our (leave no trace) mark on the planet, we all have identical SCA swag packages, and we’re all expecting our superhero capes in the mail, any day now.

<p>Thanks SCA!